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2020: An Artist's Confession

Back in March I got a call from one of my friends. This was when the world was getting to know the pandemic and the isolation experience. We discussed everything from our ten hour busy days, being a mom of two curious kids, this new world of constant engagement and uncertainty with no time to recharge. Then we explored everything from meditation to yoga to cooking together remotely on video calls to keep our sanity.

To me art has been my comfort blanket for a long long time now. It is like the after effect of a simple home cooked meal prepared by your mom on your much awaited yearly visit to India or that of the conversation with your best friend where you connected instantly over the same reaction to some random incident or experience. It's just that reassuring and evocative.

So after many frustrating days of evaluating the tools for keeping my mind healthy I decided may be I should start off with a creative routine. Without being overly ambitious I decided I should begin with ten to twenty minutes, three times a week of doing quick sketches of objects or people around me. So I kept a few small sketchbooks in various rooms of the house. That was going to be my mindful exercise routine. The truth is that calling it a routine was just an excuse. It was a way of reconnecting and recommitting to something that brought so much of joy that I had missed along the way.

Let's face it, life will never be the same for us post why not create scenarios to be happy. These short practices are mostly done without a thought. Sometimes the drawing has surprised me making me wonder why I drew that image. In my opinion creating intuitively is the simplest form of mindfulness.

Now the challenge for people like me is being in the moment without any self-criticism. Instead of getting stuck in the rut I continue to try to focus on the joy of the solitude and the gratitude to be able to afford these moments.

Old oak tree on which the tree house studio sits
15 Minutes Practice Sketch - Oak Tree

The sketch above is a perfect example of how staring outside the tree house studio without a thought resulted in this charcoal sketch of the big old oak tree itself. The tree harbors a family of squirrels that get a sneak peek of my art from time to time and many anxious dark brown lizards that camouflage perfectly on the branches. Clearly I am one with nature when I am there so who needs to meditate when I get the same results. You live and learn!

Temple in India
20 Minute Practice Sketch - Architecture Perspective

The one above is inspired from a high definition photograph. Temples are fascinating. Indian temples almost always have stories on their walls narrated through sculptures or paintings. Beyond the mythology these are glimpses of the lifestyles, beliefs, culture of humans from a different time frame interspersed with hidden messages of what may have been controversial concepts at that time. The architecture have clean curves and lines that are best reproduced through black and white charcoal or graphite in my opinion. This one has a partial view from behind the bushes which adds to the mystery and awe.

Corner tree in the backyard
10 Minute Practice Sketch - Backyard Tree

Lastly, the drawing above. So how this came about was when I was walking by the backyard pool to get some sun on one of those crisp, cold winter mornings. I noticed a flurry of activity on this short but interestingly shaped tree. A bunch of critters where buzzing around what seemed like an otherwise ordinary tree. The noise called for my attention as I sat there on one of the rocks. The sunlight was bouncing off the leaves and the rocks from one side and the lighting was just perfect for that mindful moment. I sat down for a quick drawing. This one belongs to the 'why did I draw this image' category I mentioned earlier. Talk about living in the moment!

While the words depressing, confusing, draining, stressful, claustrophobic, uncertain, scary largely capture the essence of 2020 we should remember that we as a species have emerged resilient, Specifically visual artists are producing new work more than ever. When humanity is under threat art reminds us that good times will be upon us. So I must confess while I am waiting to put 2020 behind me I am curious to see what art will emerge from this crisis...

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